Retirement Party Surprise!

Next month, my Dad turns seventy and retires from a long (37 years-ish?) and storied* career in the hospitality industry, hotel management to be more specific. He is looking forward to Retirement Day so much that he has been counting the days for months now.

(His enjoyment of the countdown has been greatly aided because of what he’s had to deal with at work lately: pimps, hookers, and drug dealers. Yes, really.)

We wanted to throw a party in honor of his retirement, and it just so happened that he and my Mom were coming to town last weekend for her 50th high school reunion. Perfect.

My sister designed some awesome invitations and we sent them out to family, friends, a couple of special former employees of my Dad’s who live within driving distance of here, and three couples who live far away: some of my parents’ oldest and dearest friends.

The weekend arrived and, while Mom and Dad were at the reunion festivities, Julesie and I baked two cakes and I got right to work icing them. One was really basic and easy to frost. The other was a little more elaborate. Originally I was going to try and represent every hotel he had managed on the one cake, but changed my mind when I decided I was overcomplicating things. Instead, I stuck with Holiday Inn, which is not the current company he works for but it’s the one about which my sister and I have the best memories, and Dad has managed more Holiday Inn hotels than any other. Oh, and we love the vintage sign. So there you go.

I started out by pulling up a picture of the sign on my iPad, and used a toothpick to freehand the design on the cake, which I had first frosted in sky blue. Then I added features, color by color.

Retirement Cake, steps 1-3

Halfway there and I was in love with this cake. If that’s possible. Let’s say it is.

Retirement Cake, steps 4-6

When it was done, I may have squealed, and then I put it next to the companion cake and admired my work. Gosh, how I love to decorate cakes!!!

Retirement party cakes

(Get it? “Irv is retire-inn?” That was my sister’s genius.)

Even after my mom made him stop at the store so she could buy a lightbulb that I told her Jim needed, and even after she begged him to stop at the gas station right across the street from my neighborhood because she told him she had to pee and didn’t think she would make it the three blocks to my house, and even after I called him in the car and asked him to come through the garage this time because I had something blocking my front door that I couldn’t move at the moment, he was totally surprised to walk in and find my family room full of people wanting to celebrate this milestone with him.

Retirement party: Surprise!

It was a lovely party and just the right amount of people. But here’s the thing: celebrating someone who has had a career that has taken him from Chicago, IL to Ft. Worth, TX to Knoxville, TN to Nashua, NH to Milwaukee, WI to Jackson, MS to Knoxville again, to Milwaukee again, and finally to Knoxville again (I hope I got that right. I trust that my mom–“Grandma W”–will correct me in comments if I didn’t!) is not easy because everyone is scattered throughout the country. Luckily we have great technology today that can bring people together, like Skype, which my parents had never used before. Julesie set up a Skype call with my Dad’s Food and Beverage Director (from Ft. Worth) and his wife, who now live in Arkansas and have remained close friends of my parents after all these years. I loved watching the four of them talk.

Skyping with old friends at the retirement party

And then, another old friend who had just recently moved from Wisconsin to Oregon made a Youtube greeting for us to share because he couldn’t make it to the party. My Dad was crying from laughing so hard.

Mom and Dad watched a video from a good friend at the retirement party.

The rest of the afternoon was spent eating deep dish pizza and those yummy cakes. (My kind of afternoon!) Dad had a great time visiting and reminiscing with everyone, and we were thrilled that we pulled off the surprise. Here’s to a pleasant final month of hotel managing, Dad, with fewer pimps, hookers, and drug dealers, for goodness’ sakes.

Speaking of “storied”, Dad is actually working on a book about his (mis)adventures as a hotel manager. He’s got some incredible tales, you guys.